Dan Trathen DMin, PhD Clinical Psychologist & Certified Business & Life Coach

A life transition can be positive or negative, planned or unexpected.

Some transitions happen without warning, and they may be quite dramatic, as in cases of accidents, death, divorce, job loss, or serious illness. Other life transitions come from positive experiences such as getting married, going away to college, starting a new job, moving to a new city, or giving birth to a child. Even though events like these are usually planned and anticipated, they can be just as life-altering as the unexpected events. Whether positive or negative, life transitions cause us to leave behind the familiar and force us to adjust to new ways of living, at least temporarily. They can leave us feeling completely unprepared and we may be thrown into a personal crisis, feeling shocked, angry, sad, and withdrawn.

Examples of Life Transitions


Life transitions can include any of the following:

  • Accidents
  • Buying a house
  • Changing jobs
  • Divorce
  • Getting married
  • Having a baby
  • Leaving for college
  • Relocation
  • Retirement
  • Selling a house
  • Serious illness
  • Significant loss (of a person, job, pet, or anything important)
  • Starting a career

Life Transitions Steps


Successfully moving through a life transition usually means the experiencing of the following steps:


  1. Experience a range of negative feelings (anger, anxiety, confusion, numbness, and self-doubt).
  2. Feel a loss of self-esteem.
  3. Begin to accept the change.
  4. Acknowledge that you need to let go of the past and accept the future.
  5. Begin to feel hopeful about the future.
  6. Feel increased self-esteem.
  7. Develop an optimistic view of the future.


The process of moving through a transition does not always proceed in order, in these nice, predictable stages. People usually move through the process in different ways, often cycling back and forth among the stages.

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